“Coming Home” – Day 8

November 20, 2008, 4:30 PM

Well here we are day 8, the final day of in-home training. Time sure flies! It’s a sad day, and it’s a happy day. It’s a sad time because it will be the end of our time together with Todd. Todd lived up to his reputation of being the best. As I said before I have never trained with Todd although he was the one who trained Roselle. I could not have asked for a better person to help Africa and I begin our journey together.
On the other hand, it is a happy day because of all that Todd has done to prepare Africa and because of all the work that Todd, Africa, and I have had the pleasure of accomplishing together over the past 8 days. Todd has helped lay a great foundation which will allow Africa and me to have many great adventures and wonderful travel experiences for many years to come. Continue reading

“Independence Day” – Day 7

November 19, 2008, 9:09 PM

Thus far my work and bonding with Africa have been progressing well. Already we have had many adventures. Yesterday Todd informed me that today our first route was to be the infamous “independent route”. It is a route that is considered “independent” because the trainer does not walk with the student and dog. Usually, the student is told their starting location and then, when dropped off, they are asked to make their way to the Guide Dog lounge.
The route is not overly challenging to anyone who has good mobility skills. In a training center where blind people are learning to walk as blind people they will travel many independent routes including some where no instructor is observing them. These are true independent routes where blind people are expected to gain confidence in their own ability to travel from place to place. Continue reading

“Traffic” – Day 6

Tuesday , November 18, 2008, 7:54 PM

Today was one of the most extremely informative, if not most fun, times during the training and formation of a guide dog team. Today we did traffic checks.

One of the most important jobs a guide dog must perform is watching for traffic whether it is moving, standing still waiting for a light to change, or whether an individual car might be blocking our path. Any pedestrian should always be alert to the traffic around them. For those of us who choose to use a guide dog the dog can help us a great deal to address the issues regarding traffic. Here are a few scenarios. Continue reading

“The Streets of San Francisco” – Day 5

Monday, November 17, 2008, 7:58 AM

Today was another gorgeous day around the bay at San Francisco. I haven’t mentioned the weather we have experienced during our training. In a word, the weather has been great! California has been experiencing drought conditions for some time. I hope that we will move beyond them this winter. However, for late November and needing to be outside training with a guide dog I must admit I can’t complain about the warm sunny time we are experiencing. The temperature has been in the 70s and 80s during the day. We’ve had little cloud cover but rather lots of sun. Southern California has been facing many severe wildfires which we hope will soon be under control and out. All of us in California fear the severity of fires during the dry conditions we are experiencing. I hope we get no more fires this year. All I ask is three more days of sunny weather and then let the clouds open and the rain poured down. Continue reading

“The Accidental Tourist” – Day 4

Saturday, November 15, 2008, 8:21 PM

Today was the fourth day of training for Africa and me. In a regular class environment training occurs Monday through Saturday. There are a few exceptions. Students arrive for class on Monday. The actual training process begins on Tuesday. First-time students come for four weeks graduating on the fourth Saturday of class. Retrain students come for two, three, and sometimes even the entire four weeks of class depending on their needs and desires. Continue reading

“Training Day” – Day 3

November 14, 2008. 4:30 P.M.

Lookout San Francisco, here comes Africa. Before we began our training earlier this week Todd asked me to give him a list of areas of work I wanted to cover during training. I indicated that I wanted to do as much big-city work as possible since I knew a lot of my travels take me to larger metropolitan areas. Although I am gaining quite a bit of confidence in Africa already I think it is important to work different areas and different scenarios in order for Africa and me to become used to each other in many different environments. Also, training is the time to learn new techniques as well is brush up on the old ones. Finally, training is a great time to hone my reaction skills since movements with a new dog are always sharper and more crisp. My job is to keep those crisp reactions on both our parts as long as possible. Continue reading

“Sherlock Holmes” – Day 2

Thursday, November 13, 2008, 9:17 PM

It’s time to report on our second day of training. I first need to go back to last evening to describe a brief encounter between Africa and Sherlock the cat. While preparing to retire for the evening I showed Africa her bed which was on the floor next to my side of Karen’s and my bed. I have a tie-down chain which I attached to Africa’s collar to keep her from wandering off in the middle of the night. Continue reading

“Miss Congeniality” – Day 1

11/12/2008, 4:28 PM

Todd and Africa showed up at 9:00AM. We picked up right where we left off on October 27. Africa spent several minutes running around the house finding all of Roselle’s and Fantasia’s toys. She even discovered our cat Sherlock. That meeting went a lot better than I had expected. Sherlock’s philosophy is why stay when you can hide. He didn’t run away from Africa which is really a good sign. Also, Africa did not try to chase him. Some positive avoidance can be a good thing in the beginning of a dog-cat relationship. Continue reading

My New Guide Dog “Africa” – Her Daily Training Journal

Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 7:11 AM

The day has finally come. This is the day I receive Africa, my new guide dog. Africa is the seventh guide I have had the pleasure of working. All seven guide dogs were trained at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael California. I received my first guide dog on June 28, 1964 when I was but 14 years of age. That day is still as fresh in my mind as if it happened only this year.

My fifth guide dog, “Roselle”, is by far the most famous one of them all as she was with me when I worked and escaped from the 78th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. You can learn more of Roselle’s life elsewhere on my web site. Continue reading